Nineteen residents who wanted to vote early cast ballots that were missing a big question: whether to approve a $30 million library project.
But they’ve since been allowed to come in to vote on the Johnson County Public Library District referendum or been sent through certified mail a new ballot with the question.
The problem was discovered when a married couple voted early last week and went to the clerk’s office wondering why they paid taxes to the countywide library system but weren’t allowed to vote on the proposed downtown Franklin library, Johnson County Clerk Sue Anne Misiniec said.
The library district is asking voters for permission to spend $29.9 million and build a new library and parking structure and remodel parts of the White River branch and current Franklin branch.
Turned out, voters in 10 precincts in White River and Pleasant townships did not have the library referendum question on their ballots, Misiniec said.
WANT TO WEIGH IN ON LIBRARY ISSUE?
You don’t have to declare a party in order to vote on the $30 million library project in the primary election.
Background: The library referendum question is being asked at the May primary election, when voters traditionally pick Republican or Democratic nominees.
Declaring a party: Voters typically have to ask for a Republican or Democratic ballot in order to vote in the primary because it’s when the major parties nominate their candidates for the general election in the fall.
Alternative: Voters can ask for a nonpartisan ballot if they want to vote on only the library referendum but not for any Republican or Democratic candidates.
What it is: A nonpartisan ballot has only the library referendum question on it and nothing else.
What to do: Ask a poll worker for a nonpartisan ballot when you check in.
Johnson County’s GIS maps didn’t identify those precincts as being part of the Johnson County Library District, she said. Voter registration employees had no way of double-checking whether the map was accurate, since it was the only map they had.
She informed the GIS department about the mistake, and it has corrected the problem, director Aaron Shaw said.
“It was a mistake on our end with precincts that should be voting in the library referendum,” he said. “As soon as it was brought to our attention, we fixed the issue and sent the information back to the clerk.”
The county GIS is reviewing data to figure out how the mistake was made, Shaw said. The office since has gone back and reviewed tax information to double- and triple-check all the other precincts to ensure they’re correct.
“Fortunately, everything was fixed pretty early in the process,” he said.
The clerk’s office added the library referendum question by reprogramming the ballots voters in those 10 precincts used while voting early, Misiniec said. Early voting has started at the Johnson County Courthouse. The county also printed 2,500 new absentee ballots with the library referendum questions, if voters from the affected precincts request absentee ballots by mail.
No estimate is available for how much it cost to reprogram and reprint the ballots, Misiniec said.
The clerk’s office already mailed out 15 ballots without the library question to voters but has identified everyone who was affected, she said.
Four voters who cast absentee ballots at the courthouse came back in and were allowed to vote on new paper ballots that asked solely about the library referendum. Certified mail was sent to the 15 voters who had mailed in absentee ballots.
Misiniec said the paper ballots they got asks just one question: “Shall Johnson County Public Library issue bonds to finance the construction of a new library building in Franklin, Indiana, and for the renovation of the existing Franklin and White River buildings (“the Project”), which Project is estimated to cost not more than $29,955,000 and is estimated to increase the property tax rate for debt service by a maximum of $0.0426 per $100 of assessed value?”
The voter registration office has secured the ballots they’ve mailed back in a separate ballot box. The election board will count them by hand on election night before adding them to the total.
Voter registration employees were able to quickly fix the problem and ensure that everyone in the library district can cast a ballot on the downtown library project.
“Thank goodness everyone just started voting,” Misiniec said. “It was a very small number that had been affected, and it’s been fixed.”